In the Spotlight

News & Features
Mike Freeman: Economic Development
By Karen Boothe
August 24, 1998

Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4
Part of Election '98

THERE IS A GENERAL SENSE OF ECONOMIC contentment in the state - particularly in the metro region - that appears to be buoying gubernatorial candidates' plans for economic development. Mike Freeman's proposals include funding for education and job training to help prepare the future workforce of the state.

Freeman says, he's committed to those businesses and industries that have ties to Minnesota.

Freeman: Those in the natural resources area... direct reduction of steel in the Iron Range, directed towards agriculture, because we're going to have crops grown here and how we add value to our crops here.
Some Minnesota farmers are in trouble because of low crop prices and natural disasters.

Freeman says the prices farmers are being paid for their crops don't cover the cost of production or provide any kind of return on their investment.

Freeman: And we're not going to have economic prosperity in rural agriculture areas with $2.10 corn or $4.25 beans. We need to work with the federal government to improve markets - markets overseas - and a return on investment for our farmers.
Freeman's plan to boost family farms includes a moratorium on large scale corporate feedlots. He says more study is needed over their impact on local economies and the environment.

Housing is another issue linked to economic development. Freeman says there needs to be more affordable housing for workers.

Freeman: Because as I have travelled over two hundred different cities in Minnesota over the last two years, one of the biggest barriers to economic development is a lack of housing, and there are a number of things we can do to enhance that. We also have to have affordable housing and available housing near where development is occurring.
That means in urban areas where Freeman says the clean-up and revitalization of vacant polluted lands in cities is helping create new business and industry ventures.

Freeman: And building housing nearby where people can walk to work, or it's a short bus ride, makes a lot more sense than building massive new highways and wastewater treatment facilities in far-flung suburbs where people have a 15 to 45 minute commute.

On the contentious issue of public funding for private sports stadiums, Freeman opposes it. He says it's one issue that defines him from his potential November opponent - St.Paul Mayor Norm Coleman.

Freeman: He spent $95 million building hockey luxury suites, in excess of a $100 million to move a software company from one side of the Mississippi River to the other. Both of those would not have occured if Mike Freeman were governor.

Coleman says his opponents are distorting his record on economic development and exaggerating his views on sports stadiums in particular.

But in an ad that began airing today in northeastern Minnesota, Freeman attacks Coleman. He pits concerns of the working class against the business interests of the metro region.

Ad: Other politicians want to spend your tax dollars to build luxury stadiums in the cities. That's wrong. I'll say no to billionaire owners and yes to the working families of Northeast Minnesota.
Another economic development plan Freeman is proposing for rural Minnesota is the relocation of some state functions and services. For example, the financial operations of taxpayer services could be relocated from St. Paul, much like the Revenue Department's partial move to Ely.

This weekend Freeman will join the other DFL candidates during a debate staged at the Minnesota State Fair. Then, a few days leading up to the primary, he'll board a yellow school bus with his family and travel the state linking economic development to other issues, like health care and education.